What is an introduction to politics

Theory of Politics - An Introduction

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2. The concept of politics
2.1 On the concept of politics
2.2 Understanding "Political Science"
2.2.1 Political science of antiquity and the Middle Ages
2.2.2 Modern Political Science

3. Theoretical approaches and methods in politics
3.1 normative-ontological approach
3.2 Critical-dialectical approach
3.3 empirical-analytical approach
3.4 Functionalist approach

4. Political ideas and branches of political science
4.1 Sub-areas of political science
4.2 Political ideas and their history

5. Conclusion


1 Introduction

The present work wants to make a comparison between two introductory works in the theory of politics and political science, which shows how differentiated and different the approach to the determination of manifestations and essence in the area of ​​the political can turn out.

On the one hand, I chose an introductory volume, “Theory of Politics. An introduction ”, in which the authors see their work as a new attempt to combine political theory, the history of ideas and political sociology with meaningful key texts. In order to achieve this, it is particularly important to understand politics in a historical and philosophical context. The authors try to develop how the classical political ideas and social movements in bourgeois society came about, in order to then be able to determine the contribution of political theories to a solution of controversial individual problems in the final part of the book.

On the other hand, I refer to the work, “Introduction to Political Science. 5th edition ", which aims to describe the historical development, the various dimensions and theoretical approaches as well as the systematics and practical application of the understanding of politics. The authors have set themselves the goal of presenting the main features of political science as a whole and its various sub-disciplines, its theoretical and methodological foundations and its constituent questions under the changed political framework conditions and experiences of the 20th century.

Both introductory books show parallels in terms of content, although the systematics of the structure for analyzing and explaining political science and political theory is fundamentally different. While in the volume, Theory of Politics, concrete political ideas, such as liberalism, conservatism or socialism, are presented, the other introductory work tries to set up a general system-theoretical frame of reference by recognizing the internal processes in a political community.

But first it should be clarified how both works explain and define the concept of politics or political science.

2. The concept of politics

2.1 On the concept of politics

The authors of the introductory work, Theory of Politics, see only in the literature that there is a consensus that there are many competing and no universally valid concepts of politics. In order to make the individual differences clear, the reader is given a historical overview of the understanding of politics.

Although politics was the most important theme of antiquity in the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, the starting point of the description is the European Middle Ages (first phase), in which modern civil society and its pre-forms were constituted.[1] The central political term “power” on which Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) was based was used. Political action was first and foremost power action. His actual topic, however, was the state, so that politics is the control of state goals according to power considerations. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) also starts with political theory and sees the state as a system of rule in which groups assert themselves and legalize their power. This legalization is called “law” and the exercise of power is called “rule”. Max Weber (1864-1920) also tries to get closer to the political by describing politics as the pursuit of power. However, Weber adds that voluntary recognition of those subject to rule is necessary for such a monopoly of power.

The establishment of civil society in the 17th and 18th centuries was accompanied by social and economic upheavals. Through the Enlightenment, the citizen became a "citoyen" (citizen) and a "bourgeois" (economic citizen). In this second phase, different interests emerged that had to be conveyed in one state.[2] The idea of ​​the equality of all citizens led to an ever increasing demand for participation in public affairs, which continued into the 20th century. At the same time, however, the capitalist economy also creates dependencies and leads to conflicts of interest between social classes in terms of social wealth. "This turns politics into a struggle between different class-bound interests for power."[3]

In recent history, the last third phase of political drafts of theories, the authors see a lack of orientation because politics would be reduced too much to just a “certain type of social action”. Politics would all too often be minimized to control and administration without explaining which goals and stakeholders are behind the political actions. That is why the authors try to redefine the concept of politics. For them, the element of the “public” becomes indispensable. Political communication and the ensuing exercise of power and assertion of interests can only be imagined in this way.

Three elements have now emerged from the historical-critical concept of politics, which the authors consider to be indispensable in political theory: Dominion - interests - public.[4] These paradigms are linked with their dominant types of political action, specifically related to their time, as well as the associated forms of society. Likewise, the structures of rule, forms of the public and the dominant interests are connected.

Elements of the concept of politics and problem areas of political theory (historical dimension)

Figure not included in this excerpt

Source: Lenk, Franke (1987), p. 47

Although this matrix does not correspond to a strictly complete chronology, it is intended to be able to organize the “unmanageable details of historical policy determination” so that the reader “can view and relate any policy-relevant topic from a three-point perspective”.[5]

2.2 Understanding "Political Science"

In order to shed more light on the concept of political science, the introductory work, Introduction to Political Science, gives a historical overview of political philosophy. The authors dedicate an entire subchapter to the beginnings, ie "ancient political philosophy", but also to the medieval conception of politics. However, they are not trying to set up a clear “order” in order to define the concept of politics in more detail.

2.2.1 Political science of antiquity and the Middle Ages

The authors make it clear how Plato (427-347 BC) was the first in the West to develop political science as a "philosophical critique of time" and, with its help, to criticize the Athenian polis.[6] Plato saw a connection between the internal order (soul order) and the external political order. For the first time, political science emerged as a philosophical reflection. For Aristotle (384-322 BC), who divided the sciences into “practical” and “theoretical”, political science played a special role. It is the royal philosophy among the practical sciences and therefore a prerequisite for all of them.[7] Political science is also of great importance to Cicero (104-43 BC). However, he does not transfer this to the Greek polis but to the Roman state, i.e. the principles of the Stoa.

In the further course of political science, Augustine (354-430 AD) made a major cut in political thought, because he turned against the ancient amalgamation of politics and religion in society. Through the elevation of Christianity as the state religion in the Roman Empire, the political norms of the ruler are set. It was only Thomas Aquinas who rediscovered the Aristotelian philosophy of man as a “zoon politikon” (political living being) in the Middle Ages. Social life and political order play an important role in the “scholastic system”, since the inner-worldly political order serves as the prerequisite for the perfection that God has given up. The ruler, who has to orient himself towards the general welfare of the citizens, is dependent on the support of the councils and the people.

In conclusion, the authors point out that scholasticism, i.e. the Aristotelian writings, remained largely the subject of university teaching until the end of the 18th century.

2.2.2 Modern Political Science

With the beginning of the modern era there was a thorough reorientation of political science, because on the one hand the secular and spiritual order of the Middle Ages was disintegrating, on the other hand nation states with new principles were formed: sovereignty, territorial rule, rational administration etc.[8] This is followed by the separation of the worldly and spiritual spheres, whereby the political is constituted independently. In addition, the "empirical natural sciences as desirable models for philosophy and political theory"[9] seen. The modern age thus also means a scientific revolution in the field of political science. Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) is considered to be the actual founder of the new political science. He developed a pure doctrine of power, in which no anthropological-ethnic criteria come into play, but very concrete, realistic techniques of acquiring, owning and defending political power are executed. This doctrine of power and the problem of state sovereignty are a.o. continued by Jean Bodin (1530-1596) and Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679).For them, the state should use all means of power to protect the modern state from groups and individuals who could endanger the supreme sovereignty. In the 17th and 18th centuries, political theories gain, among others. of John Locke (1632-1704) of influence, which "proceed from pre-state rights and freedoms of human individuals and oblige the state to safeguard these rights"[10]. The philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) expanded the legitimacy of political orders even further with his work “The Social Contract”.


[1] See Lenk, Franke (1987), p. 40

[2] See Lenk, Franke (1987), p. 43

[3] See Lenk, Franke (1987), p. 44

[4] See Lenk, Franke (1987), p. 46

[5] See Lenk, Franke (1987), p. 48

[6] See Schlosser, Stammen (1993), p. 6

[7] See Schlosser, Stammen (1993), p. 7

[8] See Schlosser, Stammen (1993), p. 9

[9] See Schlosser, Stammen (1993), p. 9

[10] See Schlosser, Stammen (1993), p. 11

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